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Spanning over decades and continents, The Eight Mountains depicts the kind of childhood friendship that remains central to one’s whole world. While city boy Pietro (Luca Marinelli) treks from the Alps to the Himalayas, the mountain pasture of Grana remains special as his father’s old refuge and as the hometown of childhood best friend Bruno (Alessandro Borghi). When they were younger, the two struck a summer friendship as the only two boys in the small town. However, their friendship isn’t the kind formed through day-to-day, routine interactions. Instead, each moment they share is fleeting, cut short by circumstances, but therefore, all the more precious. Co-directors Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch slowly and patiently craft intermittent moments that form a lifelong friendship. And at the end, when they last bring us back to Grana, these moments are all we have left of this profound, meaningful connection.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Borghi, Elena Lietti, Filippo Timi, Gualtiero Burzi, Luca Marinelli, Surakshya Panta

Director: Charlotte Vandermeersch, Felix Van Groeningen

Feminism has made plenty of strides in multiple areas, but even in the era of free love, talking about sex was difficult, and certain figures were dismissed just because of it. The Disappearance of Shere Hite reexamines the titular forgotten feminist figure that simply focused on the female orgasm, giving a second look at her immediate rise and fall in the American media, and the reasons for her leaving the country. With Dakota Johnson’s soft voice, an excellent selection of archival footage, and Hite’s deeply personal words, the film paints a portrait of a mild-mannered, self-possessed woman, but it also reveals the heartbreakingly repetitive vitriol that affects these open discussions today.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dakota Johnson, Shere Hite

Director: Nicole Newnham

Striking, epic, and occasionally gruesome, Sword of the Stranger is an excellent film about ronin redemption. From the title alone, the film promises and delivers thrilling sword-fighting sequences from the titular stranger Nanashi (or “no name” in Japanese). His bouts with Ming Chinese warriors, as well as the Caucasian Luo-Lang, are so graceful, yet at times, so brutal that it ends with wrecked buildings, copious bleeding, and (on occasion) amputated limbs. However, the gore isn’t what makes these fight scenes work. Nanashi’s will to preserve his honor and self-determination drives the film. It’s the reason why his fight against these invaders feels so compelling. It’s the reason why he reluctantly guards the orphan Kotaro and his cute shiba inu. And when the film finally reveals the cause of that will, rooting for him is inevitable.

Genre: Action, Animation, Drama, History

Actor: Ai Orikasa, Akio Otsuka, Atsushi Ii, Cho, Fumie Mizusawa, Hirofumi Nojima, Hiroshi Shirokuma, Jun Hazumi, Junko Minagawa, Katsuhisa Hôki, Katsuhisa Houki, Kenichi Mochizuki, Kohei Fukuhara, Koichi Yamadera, Maaya Sakamoto, Makoto Yasumura, Mamoru Miyano, Masaki Aizawa, Miyu Matsuki, Naoto Takenaka, Noboru Yamaguchi, Shinya Fukumatsu, Takurou Kitagawa, Tomoya Nagase, Tomoyuki Shimura, Unsho Ishizuka, Yasuhiko Kawazu, Yuki Masuda, Yuri Chinen

Director: Masahiro Ando

Rating: TV-MA

There’s no easy way to talk about racism – it’s a nebulous set of ideas that shift and change and manifests in numerous ways that many people can’t even identify as racism because of how prevalent it is. But Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has been able to write down a fairly comprehensive narrative that outlines key historical moments that shaped the world’s concept of race and Blackness, and this narrative is brought to the screen through vivid animations and strategic sequencing by director Roger Ross Williams in new Netflix release Stamped from the Beginning. It’s a provocative, passionate investigation, and it’s one that should be required viewing.

Genre: Animation, Documentary

Actor: Alexa Rachelle Jennings, Angela Davis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Ibram X. Kendi, Jennifer L. Morgan, Julian Joseph, Rafa Marinho

Director: Roger Ross Williams

Rating: R

Before the late 2010s push for more Asian American and lesbian cinema, there were movies already making strides toward better representation. One of the first to achieve this was Saving Face. Despite this film being the first feature for writer-director Alice Wu and actress Lynn Chen, and the first lead role for Michelle Krusiec, the three women lead the film with ease. Wu’s clear mastery of rom-com and family drama tropes directs us through some predictable moves, but with unpredictable twists. Krusiec and Chen’s Wil and Vivian are easy to root for with their striking chemistry, but at the heart of this film is Wil’s relationship with her mom Hwei-Lan (Joan Chen). Their dynamic—expressed through passive-aggression, bilingual bickering, and their need for the other’s honesty—turns this easygoing rom-com into a light yet cathartic family drama.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ato Essandoh, Brian Yang, Brittany Perrineau, David Shih, Hoon Lee, Jessica Hecht, Jin Wang, Joan Chen, Lynn Chen, Mao Zhao, Michelle Krusiec, Pamela Payton-Wright, Ruth Zhang, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Twinkle Burke

Director: Alice Wu

Rating: R

While the mixed reception of its near-faithful American remake Vanilla Sky might make some viewers pause, there’s an intuitive brilliance in the Spanish original Open Your Eyes that isn’t easy to translate. Sure, the apparent differences help– it’s shorter and less complicated, and Cesar’s face turns more grotesque than David’s does. But what’s startling about Open Your Eyes is the way writer-director Alejandro Amenábar guides the camera through its various shifts, creating a more subtle and gradual realization that something is wrong, and thus, a more terrifying dream turned nightmare. Amenábar has later deemed the film as his worst, saying it was written when he didn't know much about life, but, in our opinion, Abre Los Ojos still holds up as a groundbreaking existential sci-fi simulation, one that still puzzles and captivates years after.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Chete Lera, Eduardo Noriega, Fele Martínez, Gérard Barray, Ion Gabella, Miguel Palenzuela, Najwa Nimri, Penélope Cruz, Tristán Ulloa, Walter Prieto

Director: Alejandro Amenábar

Rating: R

Biographical documentaries tend to depict exceptional people– people who are so great that everyone wants to know about them, and people who are so terrible that they serve as a warning. Great Photo, Lovely Life depicts a serial sexual abuser in photojournalist Amanda Mustard’s family, able to get away with nearly all his crimes each time he skips over state lines. It’s not an easy film. It’s deeply uncomfortable. There are certain interviews that will trigger anger, despair, and bewilderment over how someone so evil can remain out of bars all his life. Great Photo, Lovely Life doesn’t provide any easy, comforting sequence as a balm to sexual abuse survivors around the world, but it’s an urgent reminder of the consequences of maintaining silence.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Amanda Mustard

Director: Amanda Mustard, Rachel Beth Anderson